HBO vs. HBO Max: Which One Should You Get?
HBO® has always been a top source for premium programming—and now it’s expanded even more with HBO Max. Launched in May 2020, HBO Max is a standalone streaming service that combines HBO’s classic catalog with TV series, movies, and original content under the umbrella of WarnerMedia Entertainment.
That’s good news, right? But it’s also pretty confusing to figure out what exactly the difference is between HBO and HBO Max. You may also be wondering what happened to HBO GO, the app that used to come with your HBO cable subscription but that doesn’t exist anymore. And then there’s HBO NOW, which was recently renamed, simply, HBO.
If you’re scratching your head and asking yourself what HBO even is these days, so are we. So we went ahead and laid it all out in the clearest way possible to help you access HBO in the best way for you.
HBO vs. HBO Max—what’s the difference?
The difference between HBO and HBO Max is related to the amount of content you get per service. HBO gives you access to the HBO catalog and lets you watch HBO live if you have a subscription through a cable or satellite TV package. HBO Max is a standalone streaming service that gives you everything on HBO along with movies, shows, and other titles from WarnerMedia Entertainment.
But what about HBO GO and HBO NOW? As of July 31, 2020, both of these platforms are no longer available. AT&T discontinued the HBO GO service—cable and satellite subscribers who normally would use HBO GO to stream content should instead download HBO Max and use that. They can sign on for no extra charge.
HBO NOW, the standalone streaming service version of the premium channel, will just be called HBO from now on. But it doesn’t give you all the content you get with HBO Max, so HBO Max is still the better bet.
|Service||Price||Content||Available formats||Sign up|
|HBO (channel)||$5–$20/mo. (requires cable or satellite TV)||HBO catalog||Cable and satellite TV||Sign up|
|HBO (app)||$14.99/mo.||HBO catalog||Web browser, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and other major platforms and providers||Sign up|
|HBO Max||$14.99/mo.||HBO catalog + WarnerEntertainment programming||Web browser, AT&T TV, Cox, Hulu, Spectrum, Xfinity, and other major providers (unavailable on Amazon Fire TV & Roku)||Sign up|
|Price||$5–$20/mo. (requires cable or satellite TV)|
|Available formats||Cable and satellite TV|
|Sign up||Sign up|
|Available formats||Web browser, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and other major platforms and providers|
|Sign up||Sign up|
|Content||HBO catalog + WarnerEntertainment programming|
|Available formats||Web browser, AT&T TV, Cox, Hulu, Spectrum, Xfinity, and other major providers (unavailable on Amazon Fire TV & Roku)|
|Sign up||Sign up|
What is the HBO channel?
A premium cable channel famed for series like The Sopranos, The Wire, and Sex and the City, the HBO channel is available as part of a cable or satellite TV subscription.
What is the HBO app?
Formerly known as HBO NOW, the HBO app is a standalone streamer that provides HBO content on over-the-top streaming boxes and sticks (Roku, Amazon Fire TV, etc.) without the need for a premium cable or satellite TV subscription.
What is HBO Max?
The Voltron version of the HBO app, HBO Max was launched on May 27, 2020, and gives you HBO content plus a whole lot of extra content. You can watch it from your web browser or from a range of platforms and devices. The app is not yet available for Amazon Fire TV & Roku, but it’s easy to get around that. See our guide to streaming HBO Max on your TV further down on this page.
Goodies on HBO Max include popular TV shows like Friends, movies from the renowned Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli, and original stuff such as The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo.
You may be able to access HBO Max if you already have HBO through a cable or satellite TV subscription. You can also get a subscription at no extra cost if you’re signed up for some AT&T internet and wireless plans. You can find deals and promos on HBO Max’s website.
HBO vs. HBO Max—which is better?
HBO Max is definitely the better choice. You can get it as a standalone service and, in many cases, you can also access it at no extra cost as part of your HBO cable or satellite subscription. It costs the same as the HBO app but gives you a lot more content.
However, there is one drawback to HBO Max: it’s currently unavailable on Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices (the most popular standalone streamers in the country). AT&T, which owns HBO, has been in negotiations to bring HBO Max to those streaming sticks.1 So, it may become available soon.
In the meantime, you’ll have to use other means to watch HBO Max if Roku or Amazon Fire TV is your preferred mode of streaming. We’ll break down your options below.
What happened to HBO GO and HBO NOW?
Until recently, HBO GO was the streaming app that comes with your HBO cable or satellite TV subscription. AT&T discontinued HBO GO on July 31, 2020, so it’s no longer available. HBO NOW, meanwhile, will just be known as HBO. You can technically sign up for this version of HBO as a standalone service, but getting HBO Max is the same price and the hot ticket to get.
If you want to stream HBO content, pull up the HBO app (formerly known as HBO NOW) or use HBO Max.
If you have HBO through your cable or satellite TV package and HBO Max is supported by your provider, then you can download and use the HBO Max app at no extra cost. Go to HBO’s website for more information on HBO promotions for internet and TV.
How do you get HBO Max on your TV?
You can get HBO Max on your TV if you have a streaming device or cable/satellite provider that supports the HBO Max app. Most of the major cable and satellite TV companies support HBO Max, including AT&T TV, DIRECTV, Cox, Hulu, Spectrum, and Xfinity. You can also watch HBO Max from your web browser, which you can link to your TV with an HDMI cable.
However, HBO Max is currently not available on Amazon Fire TV and Roku. That may change soon enough because AT&T is in talks to bring the streaming service onto both platforms.1 As you wait for all that to get hashed out, you may have to come up with creative ways to get HBO Max if you rely on Amazon Fire or Roku as your primary streaming device.
Here are some suggestions:
Connect your TV to a device with an HDMI cable
You can use an HDMI cable to connect your laptop, desktop, or tablet to your TV. This way you can stream HBO Max from the web platform and then enjoy it from your big TV screen.
Mirror your screen
Many Roku streamers let you set up a mirroring function over a wireless network. Open up HBO Max on your Android device, and then toggle on the mirror setting to display the video and run the audio channels on your TV. You can set it up on your Roku by going to Settings > System > Screen mirroring and selecting “Prompt” or “Always allow.”
Mirroring is trickier on Apple devices, but in some cases you can use the Roku mobile app or a third-party screen mirroring app to set it up. Generally there seem to be lots of ways to mirror your screen, so long as you own a smart TV and a mobile device.
Sideload HBO Max in Android format
If you’re using an Amazon Fire TV device, you can adjust your settings somewhat to “sideload” Android TV’s version of the HBO Max app onto your streamer. Longtime engineer James Futhey offers some clear instructions on how to sideload HBO Max for your Amazon Fire TV streamer.
HBO vs. HBO Max FAQ
What is HBO Max?
HBO Max is a subscription-based streaming platform that gives you access to all of HBO’s lovely content along with titles from WarnerMedia. HBO Max costs $14.99 a month. It’s also available at no extra cost as part of some AT&T internet, wireless, and TV plans and also often comes with your HBO channel on cable and satellite TV packages.
In addition to HBO’s series and movies, HBO Max also gives you tons of streamable content from the WarnerMedia universe. We’re talking Cartoon Network and Adult Swim; Friends and The Big Bang Theory; Lord of the Rings and Casablanca. And lots of new, original stuff as well.
You won’t be able to access HBO’s live broadcasts through HBO Max. But new episodes and other content will be uploaded at the same time they premiere on HBO, so you’ll be able to catch premieres for hyped gems like Game of Thrones spin-off House of the Dragon in real time.
How do you get HBO Max?
To sign up for HBO Max, go to HBOMax.com. You can also access HBO Max through an app on your iPhone or Android device. You’ll be allowed to sign up for a free trial, and you may be eligible for access to HBO Max at no extra cost if you have certain AT&T plans or already have HBO through a range of providers.
If you want the HBO channel on your cable or satellite TV package, the easiest way is to sign up through your cable or satellite TV provider. Nearly every provider offers the service as an add-on option, and many also include HBO or other premium channels in higher-tier packages.
How do you get HBO for free?
If you want to access HBO without paying extra for it, you should keep an eye out for promotions—it’s not uncommon to find deals like a year of HBO free when you sign up with a new provider. AT&T currently offers HBO Max to customers signed up for certain qualifying internet, wireless, and TV plans. Hulu offers a one-week trial of HBO Max through its service, and other phone and cable companies sometimes offer free trials.
See if AT&T internet plans are available in your area:
Can you get HBO Max on Amazon?
HBO Max is currently unavailable on Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices. If you have Amazon Fire TV or Roku, you can still use the HBO app (formerly known as HBO NOW).
Or you can access HBO Max through other means. For example, you can mirror your Android screen, download the Android TV version of the app onto Amazon Fire TV, or view HBO Max on your computer and then connect that to your TV with an HDMI cable. Get more details on how these options work.
What’s the difference between HBO GO and HBO NOW?
The main difference between HBO GO and HBO NOW was how you got them, but neither of these services exist anymore. AT&T recently discontinued the HBO GO service and shortened the name of HBO NOW to just HBO. HBO NOW was an à la carte streaming option, and HBO GO was an on-the-go feature that came with an existing cable subscription or Amazon Prime. The prices were a little different, too, but the content you got from each was exactly the same.
What content does HBO Max have?
HBO Max features all the content from HBO as well as TV series, movies, and more from WarnerMedia Entertainment’s many brands. The catalog includes huge favorites like Friends, The Big Bang Theory, and The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, along with new content. There will also be a Friends cast reunion, so put in a Grubhub order for your lattes from Central Perk and get ready for some fun.
Does HBO Max replace HBO NOW?
HBO Max isn’t replacing HBO NOW, but HBO Max is strongly being pushed as the go-to way to enjoy your HBO programming.
HBO NOW technically still exists, but these days it’s known simply as HBO and serves as the standalone HBO app for many streaming devices and providers.
HBO Max costs the same as a subscription to the HBO app, but it gives you more content—including a treasure trove of stuff from WarnerMedia Entertainment. Subscribers to HBO NOW who get their subscription straight from HBO can also get plugged into HBO Max when it launches for no extra fee.
- Todd Spangler, Variety, “Why HBO Max, Peacock Are Deadlocked in Talks with Roku and Amazon,” July 2020. Accessed August 17, 2020.
Author - Peter Holslin
Peter Holslin has spent more than a decade writing for Rolling Stone, VICE, BuzzFeed, and countless other publications. He graduated with a BA in liberal arts and journalism from New York City’s The New School University in 2008. Since then, he has roved from city to city and lived overseas, mastering his craft as an editor, staff writer, and freelancer while also acquiring ninja-like skills to address feeble Wi-Fi speeds and other internet challenges.
Editor - Cara Haynes
Cara Haynes has edited for HighSpeedInternet.com for three years, working with smart writers to revise everything from internet reviews to reports on your state’s favorite Netflix show. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span (buffering kills). With a degree in English and editing and five years working with online content, it’s safe to say she likes words on the internet. She is most likely to be seen wearing Birkenstocks and hanging out with a bouncy goldendoodle named Dobby, who is a literal fur angel sent to Earth.